Chrismas 1995 saw me rushing downstairs to unwrap something I was very excited about, at the age of 14 I hadn’t been so geared up for present opening in quite a while, having picked out the Sega Saturn from my Mum’s “Kay’s catalogue” I had eagerly anticipated the day when it came time to play on it.
I would later learn that the Saturn only came with a scart lead, however a “pre-check” by my Dad (good old Dad!) had apparently spotted this faux-pas from Sega and a quick trip to Dixon’s had cured this, why this was in the bundle I don’t know as it would be years before myself or anyone I knew would have need of a scart cable let alone know what one was.
The machine itself was hastily assembled in my bedroom, the scart cable strew aside (and ultimately lost as years later I would have to buy a new one) the 2nd pad was left in its box, mainly as my elder brother was no where to be seen, and the machine was fired up, for the first time I would hear the iconic chiming as the blue and grey loading screen greeted me as the reward for having correctly pressed the power button.
Among the games I received that day, I remember playing Command & Conquer first. Having been impressed when playing it on the pc at a friends I was delighted to begin playing the Nod campaign as my friend wouldn’t anyone play as them (sadly I can’t elaborate on this, he just wouldn’t!), however it was part way through the day when I decided to try the Sega Flash Volume 1 demo disc, that the decision on what to spend the money I had acquired as part of your tradionational teenage Christmas (when Family members you have rarely seen since childhood don’t even pretend to know you enough to send an actual gift) when we visited the shops on boxing day, was made, and my dislike of car games changed forever.
Sega Rally “Forest” stage soon loaded, I am sketchy on the detail but I believe that you could choose either of the two cars the game offered and either manual or automatic set up. Pretty much the only choices that the games offers up, for this game was no attempt at being a realistic racer, it was full out arcade and unashamedly so. Having grown up in the East Midlands, in a town famous for not having a cinema or a train station, I had never played or even seen the arcade version, so the staggering pace at which the forest was now ripping past was reason enough to silence the doubters over my choice of Christmas console. I played that demo stage over and over again, and then spent the next day being driven around by my Father until I found the game in stock, and on Boxing day in the mid 90’s, a love affair began, one that would still be going on close to 20 years later.
Sega Rally to my mind, was the finest game the Saturn produced, tragically so when you considered how early into it’s life it was released, personally I don’t think there is a better game on the Dreamcast neither, not even the sequel which I personally feel is worse due to it’s inclusion of options and extras that the first doesn’t even attempt.
2 cars (the bonus 3rd car is a joke) 3 tracks (again the “bonus” track is a joke) however the utterly refined handling and course design means that you will constantly be trying to get the better of the tracks, and push your time lower and lower. The CPU A.I cars may as well not be there, they react to what you do in no way, shape or form, never deviating from their scalextic rigid path unless you crash into them, however they never really feel like someone you are trying to beat or care about beating, the way you do the clock and the “best time” counter.
Sega Rally was a marvel of a game, an all too early pinnacle of the series and the console itself, there would always be talk of Sega Rally vs Ridge Racer from certain sectors and people, however as a good a game as Ridge Racer was at the time, it faded and lost it’s appeal in a manner that Rally never did, to this day people spotting the Saturn at mine still always ask about Sega Rally and then want a go, and to this day you can visually see parts of their brain coming back to life and remembering “long easy right, medium left” as soon as it starts. The fact that the console went on to produce so few genuine hits is what makes Sega Rally all the more endearing, even it’s would be beater, Sega Touring Car, didn’t come close to matching what it was about.
So sit back, and let me take you on a rid through Sega Rally. The idea behind this blog was to play the games “dry”, after years of not playing them, however that isn’t likely to make a difference as I am fairly certain I could talk you through each and every course due to how much time I spent on each.